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Analysis Of The President's Remarks In Arizona

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Mara, the president is still speaking at the podium, but based on what you've heard so far, what is most striking to you?

MARA LIASSON: He said having this debate is important, but at a time when our discourse has become so polarized it's important not to lay blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do. He talked about talking in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. That certainly is the way that he's tried to speak tonight.

NORRIS: The folks at the White House are saying that a lot was riding on this, that the president had to strike just the right tone. He stopped short of scolding at people, at really wagging the finger. But he did call for sort of a lifting up of political discourse.

LIASSON: Yes. He said let's use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, to remind ourselves that all our hopes and dreams are bound together. This is the role that he has, I think, always wanted to play. Now, he became a very polarizing figure, as most ambitious presidents do, but this was an opportunity that he could take to rise above that.

NORRIS: Mara, thanks so much.

LIASSON: Thank you, Michele. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.